Finding My Value As Mama
Being a mama is hard work. Being a stay at home mom means I have no other work. Obviously not counting all the things I do around the house, like the shopping and making food and keeping everyone in clean clothing (usually) and cleaning and … you get the idea. Having no work outside of the home makes finding my value pretty difficult sometimes.
Before having children and even for a while after my first son was born, I taught yoga classes. As a yoga teacher, I didn’t make a lot of money, but I did get a lot of positive feedback from my students about how much better an hour or two with me and their mat could make their day. Before teaching I worked in an office and had a pretty cool job that paid me a lot of money (but wasn’t emotionally rewarding — another story for another time).
As a mother, I spend the vast majority of my days being screamed at or literally walked all over. Wiping noses and butts that are not mine. Rocking, coaxing, cuddling, pleading, begging, and bribing tiny humans to sleep for just a few more minutes so I can maybe make a dent in the ever-growing mountain of laundry. I am paid in sloppy kisses and rocks collected along our walks. I’m looking forward to the macaroni jewelry phase, is that still a thing? Please let it be a thing. I am not expecting any payment for being a mother.
While being a stay at home parent is most definitely work and one of the hardest things I can think of, it is not a job. I knew this would be an often thankless grind when I signed up for it. What I didn’t know was that I would have so much trouble feeling valued for what I do all day and night ad nauseam.
Because nothing says “we love you, Mom” like climbing and pulling hair. And nothing says “pick up take out for dinner” like getting this photo in a text from your wife when you tell her you’re running late and ask how the day is going.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me say that my family values all that I do for them. My toddler may seem ambivalent on the issue some days, the days I dare to offer the favorite food of yesterday, for example. Deep down I know he appreciates and values the things I do for him or at least will someday.
The problem with not feeling valued isn’t those around me, it’s me. I’m the problem. I want to blame our fast-paced, results-driven, title-obsessed, ‘like’ hungry culture — and maybe there is some truth to that — but I know better. Or at least a part of me does.
The yogi in me knows that my value isn’t tied to a paycheck or performance review or number of followers on my Instagram account or even the quick ‘great class’ I used to hear as a teacher. The yogi in me believes that my value is not even mine to keep but some greater universal goodness that cannot be quantified. It is a constant that never changes no matter what path I take. It is shared among us all to keep us intimately interconnected and codependent to all of humanity.
Too deep for a mommy blogger? Bear with me, I’ll get to coffee, yoga pants and mom buns…
The exhausted, distracted, hasn’t-washed-her-hair-in-days woman that is sitting at my kitchen table trying to remember what it feels like to type on a keyboard and not a phone screen hidden under a blanket while holding a sleeping or squirming child is having trouble wrapping her head around it all.
Sure, on some level I tied how much I valued myself to what others decreed I was worthy of. I also always made the time to value myself. The truth is that valuing myself was about feeling I was worth investing in. Financially, emotionally, and physically. It was about taking the time to take care of me.
As a mother I rarely feel like I have time for myself. I pee with an audience. Where will I find time for elaborate self care? What I’m realizing — two babies and nearly three years into this gig — is that self care at this point in my life will have to look very different than it once did.
The coping techniques and care rituals I once relied on do not work for me the way they did before. Some are no longer available. Others just don’t seem all that practical. I need to let go instead of pine for a “someday” when I can use them again.
We all have to start somewhere…
So here goes. Goodbye, fancy work clothes that require dry cleaning; hello, yoga pants. Though since I’m still a registered yoga teacher I feel justified calling them “work pants”. Really cute new haircut that takes blow drying and/or washing more than every three (fingers crossed, we’re setting goals here) days? Nope. Mom bun. I love that you’re socially acceptable and sometimes even cute. A long, hot bath with the fancy smelly stuff from the swanky bath stuff place does wonders for my soul these days and needs to be something I do more often. The stop at Starbucks for a latte to get me through the afternoon, and maybe a cookie to get the toddler out of a meltdown is no longer on my list of things to feel guilty about.
I need to find new ways to take care of myself and tap into that greater source of value the yogi in me believes exists in us all. I can only do that by making time to care for myself in ways big and small. I have a lot more work to do, but I suspect I’m not alone.